9 Common Dandruff Causes and Risk Factors

Dandruff causes and risk factors

Dandruff occurs when a fungus called Malassezia grows excessively on your scalp. This fungus is naturally present on everyone’s scalp. It is usually not harmful and problematic, but sometimes it gets out of hand. It causes dandruff by producing irritants which results in shedding and flaking of the scalp skin. Excessive growth of fungus on your scalp breaks down the natural oils. This oil is known as sebum and its on your scalp and in your hair.

When this fungus feeds on oils from hair follicles, it might overgrow and cause itching, dryness and redness. Your skin cells then renew quickly than before, in order to ‘shed’ the irritant. This leads to formation of excess skin on your scalp. The too much production of skin cells on the scalp then dries it off and makes it feel like dry flakes. The cells sometimes also clump together on the surface of the scalp and appear as white flakes in your hair and on your scalp.

Unusually large amounts of flaking can also be due to other bacterial infections that causes dryness and itching. When there’s also an inflammation and redness of the scalp it’s called Seborrhoeic dermatitis.

What Causes Dandruff?

Dandruff usually is not harmful, but definitely causes embarrassment and discomfort as your scalp becomes very itchy and inflamed. Knowing and identifying the cause of your dandruff is absolutely necessary. This is because it helps to choose the best treatment method.

Dandruff can have several causes, including:

1. Irritated and oily skin.

This condition is one of the most frequent causes of dandruff. It’s features includes red and greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales. Seborrheic dermatitis may affect your scalp and other areas rich in oil glands, such as your eyebrows, the sides of your nose and the backs of your ears. It sometimes also affects your groin area and and armpits.

2. Not shampooing often enough

Skipping hair wash, hair brushing leads to a buildup of dead skin cells on the scalp. This creates a good good environment for fungal growth. Regularly washing your hair reduces oils and skin cells from your scalp preventing dandruff. Opt for shampoos with tea tree oil, which has been shown in studies to significantly improve the severity of dandruff. And take care to rinse shampoo thoroughly. Because, leftover residue could create a feeding ground for fungus.

3. Fungus

Malassezia is present on the scalp of everyone. Due to some factors this fungus grows out of control and produces a by-product called oleic acid. This acid triggers the scalp to generate more dead skin cells leaving the scalp dry and itchy. The extra skin cells die and fall off, making them appear white and flaky in your hair or on your clothes.

4. Dry skin

Flakes from dry skin are generally smaller and less oily than those from other causes of dandruff. And, redness or inflammation is unlikely. You’ll probably have dry skin on other parts of the body, such as your legs and arms, too. Also, people suffering from conditions such as eczema and psoriasis often have dandruff. Because, these conditions have extremely dry skin.

5. Reactions to certain chemicals in shampoos

Sometimes sensitivities to certain ingredients in hair care products or hair dyes can cause a red, itchy, scaly scalp. Because, certain chemicals present in shampoos can be allergic or sensitive to the scalp. This may aggravate excess shedding of dead skin cells.

In addition, using thick pomades or certain oils can potentially cause dandruff. Yeast feeds off lipids and can proliferate in their presence. Cut back on hair sprays, styling gels, and mousses when possible. Thus if you think hair products might be one of your causes of dandruff. These styling products can build up on your hair and scalp and cause oiliness.

Risk factors

Almost anyone can have dandruff, but certain factors makes you more prone. There are a number of different factors which can make your dandruff worse. These don’t cause the problem, but can make it seem worse at certain times of the year or when doing particular activities like sports. These include:

1. Poor diet

It’s not too surprising that healthy skin and hair come from the inside out. A poor diet and also certain foods may cause a flare-up, especially if you’re already prone to dandruff. Diets high in saturated and trans fats cause your sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which makes dandruff worse. Aim to eat more healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, whenever possible. Great sources include avocados, nuts, olives, and safflower oil. Too little vitamin B complex, which contains biotin, a nutrient that forms the basis of hair cells, may exacerbate symptoms as well. Load up on vitamin B-rich foods like oatmeal, rice, eggs, and bananas.

2. Stress

Increased stress levels can lead to hormonal changes in the body. Stress impairs your immune system and can provoke flare-ups. This can lead to excess oil secretion giving rise to fungal growth. Try relaxation techniques into your everyday routine. Try yoga, a daily walk, or some deep breathing (inhale for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of four, exhale for a count of four).

3. Adolescence

During puberty, oil-secreting glands become active. The increase of oil-secretion leads to fungal growth and dandruff. Sometimes, it continues through middle age. That also doesn’t mean older adults don’t get dandruff. For some people, the problem can be lifelong.

4. Lack of hygiene

Skipping hair wash, hair brushing leads to a buildup of dead skin cells on the scalp which makes a good environment for fungal growth.


Now that you have analyzed the root cause of the problem, you can treat it in the right way and get control over it. Here, we have mentioned the best home remedies to curb the problem faster.

We hope the information provided in this article was helpful for you. If you have any other concerns or suggestions regarding the article, let us know in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share your experiences as it may help others…

About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At felclinic.com we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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